Coming into Round 2, there were mixed feelings around the Palace of Santoña.
While Nepo and Fabi were definitely in full gear mode with their impressive wins in round 1, Hikaru and Ding were looking to bounce back from their losses, and Rapport, Alireza, Duda, and Radjabov were aiming to get a full point after their draws in the previous round.
Round 2 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022 saw Nepo take on Fabi in a top-of-the-pile match-up, Ding facing Duda, Alireza, who celebrates his 19th birthday today, taking on Rapport, and Hikaru paired with Radjabov.
Clash Of The Leaders
The two tournament leaders were coming off the back of impressive wins in yesterday’s round. Nepo made light work of Ding and Fabi beat Hikaru after a grueling match featuring the Berlin Defense.
The players went for the well-analyzed opening, The Italian Game: Giuoco Pianissimo Variation.
Fabi looked to turn up the heat as he immediately went for a kingside attack with 9.g5 and began threatening Nepo’s already castled king. Nepo responded by bringing his knights to the kingside for added protection. The engine at this point gave Fabi the edge in the game.
Nepo Goes All Out!
Nepo finally decided that he’d had enough playing defense and started his attack by lifting the a1 rook and bringing it to the kingside on g3. Fabi calmly went for another minor piece exchange by capturing Nepo’s scary-looking knight on f5.
Nepo then threatened to burst open the kingside with 29.Qh5, but Fabi had it all covered with Rg8. Repetition of moves then occurred with 30. Bb2 Re8 31. Bc1 Rg8 32. Bb2 Re8 33 Bc1, and the players agreed to a draw.
ROUND 2 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: IAN NEPOMNIACHTCHI V FABIANO CARUANA: ½ -½. DRAW
Can Ding Recover?
Everyone was eager to see how Ding would respond to his painful loss in the previous round against Nepo. Duda, on the other hand, had less pressure on him as he drew his game against Alireza Firouzja.
Nevertheless, both players were looking to pick up a full point, and went for the Giuoco Pianissimo Variation of the Italian Game, similar to what was played in the Nepo v Fabi game.
Duda went for an early bishop trade on the move 14, giving up his light square bishop for Ding’s knight and doubling Ding’s pawns. Both players then continued putting their pieces on optimal squares, with neither side trying anything too risky.
The Battle Spoils Are Shared
Neither player seemed too eager to go all out, and after a few trades on the F5 square, a repetition of moves happened with 39. Nh5+ Kg5 40. Ng3 Kg7 41. Nh5+ Kg5 and the players agreed to a draw.
ROUND 2 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: JAN KRZYSZTOF DUDA V DING LIREN: ½ – ½. DRAW.
Birthday Boy Gets a Scare
Both Rapport and Alireza looked set to shrug off the rather drab results of the previous day and go for the win. Rapport opened with e4, and Firouzja matched it with c5 going for the Sicilian Defense. Rapport went for a rare line of the Sicilian that he had prepared for this match. He played 4.Qxd4, the Chekhover Variation, rather than the conventional Nxd4. Alireza, as expected, was unfazed and matched Rapport’s opening preparation strongly.
“No Queens, We Go To The Endgame”
Alireza looked to get the queens off the board early as he offered a queen trade on move 10, to which Rapport willingly agreed.It seemed the game would be played on the queenside as both players began shifting their pieces there. Rapport fixed his disconnected pawns on the queenside by giving up one of his bishops, Alireza obliged, and the game was down to a bishop×knight v bishop×knight endgame with both players still having both of their rooks.
A Huge Opportunity Missed!
Rapport then went after Alireza’s queenside pawns. Alireza offered a pawn exchange, and soon the minor pieces followed, leaving both players with only their rooks and pawns. Rapport then managed to infiltrate Alireza’s position on move 34 and place both of his rooks on the 7th rank directly in front of Alireza’s king, locking the king in. The engine gave Rapport the winning edge with an advantage of 3.1. However, Richard Rapport was unable to find the right moves, and Alireza was able to wiggle free and grab a draw.
ROUND 2 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: RICHARD RAPPORT V ALIREZA FIROUZJA: ½ – ½. DRAW.
The Speed Demon Bounces Back!
Hikaru looked to shrug off yesterday’s defeat to Caruana when he faced Radjabov in round 2 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022. Both players looked to catch up to tournament leaders Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepominiachtchi.
The Berlin Weapon
Hikaru opted for the Ruy Lopez opening with white, to which Radjabov responded with the Berlin Defense, Hikaru’s weapon of choice in the game against Fabiano. However, unlike Fabi, Hikaru didn’t go for the Anti-Berlin, showing Radjabov that he was well-versed in the secrets of the Berlin Defense.
Both players went for an early “capture fest,” with Hikaru giving up his light square bishop on b5 in exchange for Radjabov’s knight on f6. Play continued with Hikaru having a passed pawn on d5, but less active pieces and Radjabov having two active bishops and doubled pawns on b5.
Hikaru then offered to trade his bishop for Radjabov’s active bishop on b6. Radjabov accepted the exchange, and the engine deemed the game equal at this point.Radjabov then played 20.Re5, mounting pressure on Hikaru’s passed pawn on d5. Hikaru replied with 21.d6, and Radjabov offered a queen trade, the trade was accepted, and Radjabov picked up the undefended f3 pawn.
Nakamura then lifted his rook to the 7th rank and won a pawn. The position, however, was still very equal. Radjabov then began pushing on the kingside with h4 and g5. Both players started bringing their kings closer to the action. Hikaru continuously harassed Radjabov’s bishop and was able to capture all of Radjabov’s queenside pawns. Radjabov also had a say and captured all of Hikaru’s kingside pawns.
Race To The Finish
Both players then started pushing their passed pawns. In an attempt to gain a tempo for his passed pawn, Radjabov offered a bishop sacrifice. Hikaru accepted, and unfortunately for Radjabov, Hikaru was able to stop the passed pawn from promotion. With Hikaru having a huge material advantage and without any counterplay for black, Radjabov resigned.
Both players then started pushing their passed pawns. In an attempt to gain a tempo for his passed pawn, Radjabov offered a bishop sacrifice. Hikaru accepted, and unfortunately for Radjabov, Hikaru was able to stop the passed pawn from promotion.
With Hikaru having a huge material advantage and without any counterplay for black, Radjabov resigned.